Someone very prominent said that it was champagne racing today. He should know, for he has a list of accomplishments the envy of all, and also stands atop the standings after Day Two at the 2016 Etchells Australian Championship.
John Bertrand, together with crew Billy Browne and Jake Newman have ensured their boat, Triad, has a four-point buffer over the Racer X outfit from Hong Kong.
Three races, opening with a first, then a fifth and ultimately a fourth place shows the wonderful consistency they are very much known for. From around 1030hrs in the morning they, along with an ever-burgeoning number of craft took to the water for practice and to settle into the very different conditions on offer, relative to yesterday.
It seems very weird to say that everyone was two-boating, where they check their pace directly against another craft, when there were 48 of them out there, but his is exactly what was occurring. If they weren’t all fired up from it, then the spectators and media team certainly were.
What started out as 6-10 knots from around 160? and with flat water, would work its way up to a blistering 14 knots or so and offer a smooth and manageable 1 to 1.3m chop. It did clock to the right a bit and got as far as 205?, but by and large spent the afternoon at 195? and this was the axis for nearly all the races. The range never varied from a healthy 1.6nm and the superb orange day-glo sail being flown from the mast of the ID craft was always easy to spot.
Many would expect that the Etchells would take a few attempts to get the first race away cleanly. Indeed, after a forced hiatus yesterday when they could not race, you would think the built up tension would spill over into many false starts. This was not the case at all. Indeed they all played very nicely for the day and everyone earned a gold star from the Juror who was on board the media vessel. Impressed with both the lack of noise at the marks and the many penalty turns that were performed without asking, it was easy to hear Andrew Waterman’s comment, ‘A dial up day.
Reigning mid-winter Champions, Yandoo XX, got off to a flyer from the pin end, but would eventually hand over the lead to Triad and that is the way it stayed. Magpie, with Graeme Taylor, Richie Allanson and James Mayor on board took the second race with some blinding uphill pace. Over 1.6nm they stretched their lead to around a minute. That must have felt great.
Racer X got there in the third race, with the super-fast Encore dropping its rig on the second work about 1.5m above the deck. This would indicate a problem with the lowers, but it must be very sad for Peter Conde who only recently re-bought his original Etchells back (AUS 870). We hope that Peter, Brian Hillier and Peter Elkington can source a replacement mast quickly and return to the water. It was exciting to watch their pace as the breeze built today.
Billy Merrrington’s Top 40 with Ian McKillop and Richard Macgarvie crewing looked to be having a great day, but a collision at the leeward mark for the last time of the day sent them to shore for overnight repairs to a huge hole in the port quarter and also put three crews in to the Jury Room for a long chat about who, what, where, when and why.
Damage also occurred to Animal House, also on the last work of the day. Dirk Van Der Struyf, Gordon Blaauw and Matt Smith were fine, but they had to head home with mast damage, and were only able to sail on the one tack.
Gladly we can report that all the sailors are fine and that it is likely all the damaged boats will be back on the start line tomorrow for more racing. Hot Northerlies are predicted, so in the climbing heat it will be interesting to see which crews adapt best to these new sets of conditions.
Finally then, many thanks go to race management and all the volunteers and staff of the host, Royal Brighton Yacht Club. Three terrific races, lots of help on the course for stricken vessels and then warm hospitality ashore. Little wonder there are great smiles all round from the sailors. Racing continues all week and concludes on Friday.
At the event, sailors will benefit from the terrific daily, and overall prizes at the 2016 Etchells Australian Championship, courtesy of Gill and Harken. North Sails will once again provide a brand new headsail as the mid-fleet prize. Distress Rate Media, Entire, Graphic Effects, GFS Electrical, Gunther Developments, Protecon Solutions, and Saltytag.com and Sailor Sunscreen complete the sponsors’ roll. To check out all things Etchells, please visit etchells.org.au and start clicking away. There is also a lot of material on the Etchells Australia YouTube channel, so please have a look at that too.
by John Curnow